For me, wanting to become a teacher was always about more than being passionate about my subject. I want to make a difference to children’s lives, help them discover themselves and their place in the world.
I grew up in a small village in South Wales and went to a secondary school which was, at the time, one of the lowest-ranked schools in the country. This was in part due to the challenging demographic of the area and the many difficulties the school faced as a result.
As a teenager I, like many others, had absolutely no idea who I was or who I wanted to be. Did I want to go away to university or get an apprenticeship and stay at home? Did I want to be an engineer? An accountant? An astrophysicist? Was I good enough to do any these things? Was I smart enough? Or brave enough?
Through it all, from year 7 to year 13, there was one teacher who was always there for me. She supported me, inspired me, and coached me. She always made me feel important as an individual and always had time for me; even during her lunchbreaks when I cried on her classroom floor, over the stress of my upcoming exams. To me she was, and still is, the image of what an excellent teaching is. I’d not be where I am today if it wasn’t for her and I’ll always feel like I owe her a huge part of my successes. She’s the reason I considered a career in teaching. I want to be to others what she was for me.
A couple of months ago, just as the events of the current pandemic were beginning to unfold, I witnessed a truly heart-warming moment while on my second placement. The school reminded me heavily of my own, serving quite a tough demographic, but does a truly amazing job at providing a quality education to all its pupils.
One teacher was packing her personal belongings from her classroom, having just received the news that she had self-isolate for 12-weeks, due to being high risk. Before she left one of her year 11 pupils asked if he could speak with her.
However, the story starts a few weeks before when that same pupil was removed from her classroom for being rude and disrespectful. In the opposite classroom my mentor and I were chatting and, having heard the commotion outside, invited the boy to sit with us.
For the best part of 40-minutes we talked. We didn’t ask for details of what has transpired only minutes ago. Instead we talked about him. We talked about his life, his aspirations, his likes and dislikes. We talked about adulthood and what it means to grow up, about appropriate behaviour and the importance of knowing when to bite your tongue.
It turned out that the boy was really struggling with the subject he’d just been kicked out off. He felt like he was falling behind and was destined to fail his exams which were, at this time, supposed to take place in only a few months. He told us he was scared but that he didn’t know how to tell his teacher this and, as a result, had said some hurtful things that he didn’t mean. I’m sure that anybody reading this has experienced something similar, has said something in the heat of the moment and later regretted it. At the end of the lesson period the pupils wrote a letter to his teacher and, when giving it to her, earnestly apologised for his actions as he had never meant to offend or upset her.
Fast forward to her packing up her classroom and his asking to speak with her. Again, my mentor and I were sat in the classroom opposite and witnessed the exchange. He sincerely thanks her for everything that she has ever done to help him and wholeheartedly apologised for all of the stress he has caused her during his time as at the school. He tells her that he is grateful for her support and that she has made him want to make something of himself, made him realise what growing up and taking responsibility is. He told her that he’d really miss her and her lessons and that he hoped to see her again once this pandemic is over. He then smiled at my mentor and I and went back to his class.
I can honestly say that I am proud to know this boy. To me this is everything that teaching is about. This is the difference that teachers can make to children’s lives. While I only had a small part in this story, I’m glad that I got to play any part at all, and it really confirmed for me that I made the right choice in pursuing a career in teaching. I want to be that change in pupil’s lives. I want to help make that difference. And if I ever have the impact on one pupil, like this teacher had on this boy or like my geography teacher had on me, then I will have achieved my aspirations.
Take a chance
As previously mentioned, throughout school I wasn’t entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life. Teaching had always been in the back of my mind but never really something I actively considered. When my degree course presented the opportunity to complete an education module, alongside some additional voluntary work in a local secondary school, I decided to take a chance.
It was one of the best chances I’ve ever taken, and I haven’t looked back.
There are countless ways to get into teaching. If it’s something you’re considering, even if you only think about it late at night when you dare to dream and think about the ‘what ifs’, then take a chance. Get some experience, do some volunteering, ask questions, and seek advice but please, take a chance. It might just be the best thing you ever do.
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